In the farthest, most frigid region of our planet’s southern hemisphere, sprawls the highest, coldest, driest, and most isolated place on earth. Antarctica is a vast land of mountains, ice, tundra, and extreme, inhospitable cold that has kept it relatively unexplored and uninhabited even nearly 200 years after its initial discovery. Yet as technology improves and humankind’s ever growing desire to push at the boundaries of our understanding of our planet propels us forward, we are just starting to scratch at the surface of Antarctica’s myriad mysteries. What we are finding is that Earth’s most remote and extreme continent is even stranger than we had ever thought. All manner of weirdness, everything from Nazi bases, to crashed UFOs, to hauntings, to ghost ships that seem to have appeared from nowhere have been claimed in this remote place, and here we will look at the time alien skulls were apparently found here as well.
Before getting into it, it is perhaps important to first understand just how much of a vast, forbidden, inhospitable realm this is. Antarctica covers an area of 14.0 million km2 (5.4 million sq. mi), which is roughly twice the size of Australia or one and a half times the size of the United States, making it the fifth largest continent in the world. Although it is 98% covered with ice, which is well over a mile thick in most places, Antarctica is considered to be one of the driest places on earth, with only 200 mm (8 inches) of annual precipitation along its coast and even less inland. The cold in this wind-blasted land is staggering, with recorded temperatures reaching a deadly −89 °C (−129 °F). For this reason, human habitation of the continent is limited, and there are no permanent settlements. For the most part, the extent of human habitation consists of research stations representing many countries found peppered throughout the continent and engaged in various scientific pursuits.
For such a large landmass Antarctica long remained a mere myth, a lost land that was once known as Terra Australis Incognita, or the “Unknown Southern Land,” the existence of which for a long time remained almost a legendary quest and the doom of many failed expeditions to locate it. Although speculation and legends of its existence go far back, and there were discoveries of some of its satellite icebergs and islands, the Antarctic mainland was not really properly discovered until 1820, when a continental ice shelf was spotted by a Russian expedition led by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev aboard the Vostok and Mirny. Even upon this discovery, the icy continent remained mostly neglected and forgotten at the bottom of the world since no one was willing to brave the extremely hostile conditions of this uncharted, extreme wilderness. It wasn’t until 1911 that the first human beings successfully penetrated the interior of Antarctica, when Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and four other expedition members became the first to reach the South Pole after a perilous overland journey.
In the ensuing century, Antarctica largely remained an unexplored, poorly understood realm of cold and ice, and it has only been recently that improving technology and satellite imagery have helped us to really start scratching the surface of its frigid mysteries. Even so, Antarctica’s mysteries run deep, and what we are uncovering here at the very bottom of the world is mostly posing more questions than answers. As we look deeper into the ice and probe more thoroughly at the edges of what we know about this hostile and perilous place, Antarctica is proving to be much more than the enormous chunk of ice it was once thought to be. Yet among all of the genuine discoveries being made all of the time are the more fringe accounts, and here is where we come to the alien skulls.
In 2014 a seemingly amazing and shocking story began making the rounds when it was announced that out in this bleak frozen wasteland, supposedly in the area of what was called La Paille, Antarctica, there had been discovered three unusual skulls, described as having elongated craniums and enlarged eye sockets and as being possibly up to a thousand years old. Giving the story weight was that not only were these bizarre skulls dug up in the first place, but they had been discovered by respected Smithsonian archaeologist Damian Waters and his intrepid team. Waters was quoted in initial articles on the matter as excitedly proclaiming:
We just can’t believe it. We didn’t just find human remains on Antarctica, we found elongated skulls. I have to pinch myself every time I wake up, I just can’t believe it. This will redefine our view of mankind’s history as a whole.
As soon as the story got out into the open, there was immediate speculation as to what it could all mean. One idea was that these were the remains of ancient people who practiced skull deformation, a tradition present in some cultures in which the skull is bound or otherwise impeded in its growth to cause it to become misshapen for various religious or cultural reasons. If this were true, it was seen as a mind blowing discovery as the age of the mystery skulls would suggest that humans had visited Antarctica far before the earliest known human discovery of the frozen continent. Of course there was also the idea that these weren’t human skulls at all, but rather the remains of alien beings or even human-alien hybrids of some sort. This is a notion thrown around for a variety of anomalous elongated skulls that are discovered from time to time all over the world, in such far flung places as Peru, Egypt, Malta, the United Kingdom, and others, and the archeologist Waters himself supposedly believed this possibility, saying of the Antarctica skulls:
These elongated skulls are much, much larger than normal human skulls would be. Purposeful cranial deformation can change the shape of a skull, but it cannot increase the volume of the skull. In addition, these skulls have quite a few other important physical characteristics that greatly set them apart from normal human skulls.
The bizarre story soon became viral and was being discussed all over the place, but if you are skeptical of the possibility of ancient alien skulls being found buried in Antarctica then you are not alone. While many on the Internet were buying the fantastical tale hook, line, and sinker, only helped along by the purported scientific pedigree of the one who discovered them and his seemingly authoritative statements on the matter, others were not satisfied and began to see cracks in the whole thing. One of the things that was noticed is that it is unclear whether the place where the skulls were claimed to have been found, La Paille, is even a real place at all. Jason McClellan of openminds.tv has said of this “Approximately ninety eight percent of the continent of Antarctica is covered by ice. Antarctica has research stations, but not cities, so it is unclear where La Paille, Antarctica is supposed to be.” Blunter still is an article on the site Skeptophilia, which dismisses it as a real place outright, saying,
There seems to be no region called La Paille in Antarctica. Paille is French for straw, something I haven't seen much of in photographs I've seen of Antarctica, so it's a little hard to see why someone would name a place down there La Paille.
If this is not a real place, then it already sends up a red flag on the veracity of the report. Perhaps more glaring still is that the story originates with an article titled “3 Elongated Skulls Found in Antarctica,” posted on April 2, 2014 on an entertainment news site called American Live Wire, which has been criticized for publishing fake news in the past, and this piece was followed by an almost identical article on World News Daily, which is also not considered to be the most reliable source. Both articles show the same pictures of the skulls and make the same claims, and neither one of them gives any concrete source for their information, which is made even more interesting in that it has been found that the Smithsonian itself has never published an account of the discovery. If it is such a groundbreaking discovery, then why would it only be published on these two questionable news sites and not in the Smithsonian’s Newsdesk? Instead every story on the Antarctic skulls can be traced back to these two original articles, the first of which was posted on April 2, right around April Fool’s Day.
There is more. When Skeptophilia did its own investigation into the story they did not have to do much digging to find out that not only were the pictures of the skulls in the two original articles actually pictures of completely different elongated skulls kept at the Regional Museum of Ica in Peru, but nowhere could they find any evidence of a Damien Waters with the Smithsonian. Taken with everything else that is off about the whole thing and it becomes easy to imagine that this was probably a completely fabricated account that managed to worm its way into people’s minds with the promise of alien mysteries in this far away frigid domain and then took on a life of its own. Skeptophilia would rather amusingly say of Waters and his Antarctica alien skulls:
I suspect that he (Waters) was made up, along with the skulls and La Paille and everything else about the story. It's a shame, really. Given the cachet that Antarctica has, it would be cool if there was some kind of weird mystery down there, or at least something other than penguins and leopard seals and high winds and a crapload of ice.
Yes, it would certainly be cool, and Antarctica is one of those places that sparks the imagination on such things. Despite all of the skepticism, there are still plenty of people who entertain the idea that these skulls are the real deal, and one does not have to look far to find chatrooms and threads devoted to such talk, with accusations of cover-ups thrown around liberally. In the end, all of the evidence shows it is most likely that this was an elaborate hoax of some sort, yet it is curious to see how much the public is willing to latch on to such fake stories and hold them up as real without really checking the facts. Were there ever any alien skulls in Antarctica? Maybe, maybe not, but regardless of what the truth may be, this vast expanse of barren land far from civilization will no doubt continue to drawn to itself such tales for some time to come.